Hackathons were a growing trend in the API space in 2011, and 2012 is shaping up to be a year of explosive growth around hackathons.

For those that are new to the hackathon space, these events are not intended to perform illegal activities around computer networks. Software developers widely see hacking as a quick and dirty, creative programming solution to a problem.  It is NOT about gaining access to other networks, which is a definition widely publicized by the media and Hollywood.

More small and medium businesses, including the enterprise are taking notice of the innovation going on around hackathons.  Hackathons are a great marketing and talent acquisition vehicle for companies, and there are four distinct ways to get involved:

If you are new to the space I recommend working your way down the list to get your feet wet.  Start by just attending a hackathon and talking with organizers, other sponsors and most importantly developers.

As you start getting a feel for what goes on, then consider sponsoring or putting on a hackathon.  However in my opinion the best way to get the most Return on Investment (ROI) from a hackathon is to participate.

Bring someone from your development team and join them in hacking away on a project as part of the event.  You don’t have to be a developer to be on a team, many of these teams need marketing, business advice and every team is going to need someone to pitch your idea and present your project at the end of the event.

So if your thinking of sponsoring a hackathon, before you spend the money I’d recommend other simpler, less costly forms of participation before you go all in.   You might just catch the hackathon bug and make it a regular part of your companies marketing strategy.

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